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Wednesday, July 04, 2007
I'm Jamie Sanders, the guy who made vNES, the classic Nintendo Entertainment System emulator. I started work on vNES after realizing that I had nothing to do for the summer, and as a side-effect of my love of Nintendo and emulation. The original vNES website was created a few days before June 1, 2006 and was hosted at vnes.thatsanderskid.com. vNES was actually a small mistake, all my other ideas I was toying with at the time turned out to be remarkably bad. Before vNES, I was toying with making a web-based GUI, an RPG (which occasionally gets worked on still), a proxy server and a GPL flash preloader that is supposed to detect eBaum's World and then halt, playing "Suicide Is Painless" instead of a real movie.

Since all of those other pursuits were either futile or impossible for me to improve upon, I started reading technical documents on the NES, spend a good two weeks implementing stuff and reworking the mappers, and wound up with vNES. On October 1, 2006, vNES managed to get on the front page of Digg, and that's when my popularity skyrocketed. I found myself being mentioned in the most mainstream to the most unlikely of places, from college radio, Iraqi military bases, all the way down to the India Times.

To this day, people still don't believe that I'm 15. Mostly, because I inherited my NES from my older brother, who was alive when the NES was very popular. My style of writing also seems to throw people off, as I you don't run across many teenagers that bother to find the shift key. Or for that matter, can actually spell "teenagers that bother to find the shift key."

My original host got really angry about the traffic on the site, and continued to claim that I was abusing the server. What they didn't tell me is that the entire problem arose from my inadvertently deleting the favicon.ico file, and that was making the server return a 404 way too much of the time, which isn't really good for ther server. So, I decided to move vNES to Dreamhost. Dreamhost then promptly decided to shut me down, under the perception that my enabling the online emulation of the NES is illegal. I've been mistaken before, but I'm really sure that piracy denotes the downloading of files without the consent of the copyright holder. Technically, this isn't downloading anyway.

Dreamhost felt they could suspend my site without giving me a particular reason, initially. I don't know what it is with server farms and doing this, as it happened a few months later. I then re-enabled my site, and they kicked me off for good. If you're going to shut me down while I'm getting around one million hits a day, give me no actual reason, and then make me wait in support queue for twelve hours and think I'm not going to re-enable my site, you've probably been hit in the head one too many times.

It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so remarkably and incredibly uncooperative. Not only that, but at the time I had received around $200 in donations from the users of vNES. Dreamhost continued to refuse to give me those funds back until I was about a minute away from sending papers to them, as I finally got them to at least return the money to the donators. If you're reading this, never buy your hosting at Dreamhost (or GoDaddy, but that's obvious - you don't want a content Nazi to be your host).

William Burns, the Chief Technology Officer of VR5 (a company that was using vNES for their Virtual Reality program) really came to my rescue dealing with Dreamhost, writing one of the best open letters I've ever had the pleasure to read. It was sent to Dreamhost and posted on www.virtualnes.com for the world to read. It was one of those New Radicals moments, the underdogs doing a reasonably good job of making the establishment seem incompetent and ostensibly obsolete.

At that point, I moved vNES around donated servers for about 48 hours before moving to my current host (of this site, anyway). Thanks to another site linking to me, the server overloaded and crashed. They decided to lock it until I could guarantee that I won't crash the server anymore. That was the birth of Public Terminal Mode, which allowed people to link to the Coral Content Distribution Network to play games on vNES. Problem is, if you were on a public computer, such as a Library or School workstation, Coral CDN was probably blocked. So, I kept a way to access the main server directly. Hence the name "Public Terminal Mode."

Around April 14, I was told that another website was using the vNES applet. At the time, I was rather opposed to the idea. I got a bit angry, only to find out that numerous other websites were also doing the same thing, but they weren't publishing it quite like Nintendo8 was. After a few days of struggling, I came to the conclusion that the frustration isn't worth popping back up in 20 years as a brain tumor, and released it under the GPL on April 22nd. On July 1st, the entire website was redesigned from the ground up to make it easier to use.

Later this month, I'm going to add about 200 Japanese NES games. I've also been hard at work perfecting vNES, as there are still some notable games that don't work yet, like Tetris, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! and River City Ransom. I've also been experimenting with making a vSNES. Although I can't make any promises, I wouldn't expect that to be ready until next year.

If you've got any questions about how to use the vNES website, check out the Help Section. If that doesn't work, me and my friends will be at www.on-topics.com and www.on-topics.com/chat/ to help you out.

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Blogger Alex said at 7/04/2007 04:10:00 AM:  
Great post.
Blogger gnome said at 7/04/2007 04:49:00 AM:  
Excellent post and thank you so much for vNES. Now, what do you mean you're 15?
Blogger svrman said at 7/04/2007 05:15:00 AM:  
Wow, I totally missed that part - you're/were 15? O_O

Interesting read.
Thanks for sharing!
Anonymous SuperDre said at 7/04/2007 06:56:00 AM:  
Well, no matter what he thinks, I'm pretty sure the site is illegal in providing the games without permission from it's owners to the public. So he better first ask nintendo before doing something like this.. I think Dreamhost was full in their right to thinking that what he did is illegal.. Because I wanted to know if it's legal, I have send an email to Nintendo to ask (Which he should have done in the first place), because if it's legal it opens up a whole new erra of online emulation ;)
Anonymous Popoyt said at 7/04/2007 07:35:00 AM:  
I guess it's clearly illegal if the user doesn't own the game he's playing, but it's abandonware ; everybody assume that Nintendo isn't selling these games / entertainment systems anymore, so it's fine...

Until Nintendo strikes back - they are secretly planning a PC adaptation of Megaman 3 and Duck Hunt...
Blogger gnome said at 7/04/2007 11:50:00 AM:  
Oh, enough with this illegal bit. nintendo has enough money already...
Blogger James said at 7/04/2007 12:06:00 PM:  
FWIW, Nintendo is selling (some of) these games currently. See the Wii's virtual console.

... it'd still be blatantly illegal even if they weren't, though.
Anonymous Oddbob said at 7/04/2007 12:46:00 PM:  
Yeah, its as illegal as bumming dogs but its a great resource - so I'm with Gnome on this one.

Plus, I can't really talk with skirting the fuzzier areas of the law myself ;)
Blogger Paul Eres said at 7/04/2007 12:52:00 PM:  
I agree that it's illegal, and I can't blame Dreamhost, but I admire the guy's competence and intelligence, especially for a 15 year old.

Also what do you mean Nintendo has enough money? Should we cap off someone's money at a certain amount and everything higher than that we're free to steal for ourselves?
Anonymous Oddbob said at 7/04/2007 01:39:00 PM:  
I think its Gnomes way of saying that we could go round in circles forever discussing wether its legal/illegal as opposed to a blanket statement of intent.

This is the internet after all :D
Anonymous Jim Miles said at 7/04/2007 04:44:00 PM:  
"Plus, I can't really talk with skirting the fuzzier areas of the law myself ;)"

Which, presumably, includes bumming dogs, given how much you know about the legal status of such an action!

Anonymous oddbob said at 7/04/2007 05:45:00 PM:  
Its all true :(
Blogger gnome said at 7/05/2007 04:14:00 PM:  
Well, oddbob, you definitely covered part of my intention. Truth though is that Nintendo does actually have more than enough money. Oh, and dear paul eres this money capping thing is quite an excellent idea. You'd be amazed what limiting excess riches would do against poverty...